Wednesday, November 11, 2020

  • Wednesday, November 11, 2020
  • Elder of Ziyon



Human Rights Watch just issued a 45-page report on the use of white phosphorus and how it can injure people if not used correctly. While the report claims to be about "incendiary weapons," it exclusively discusses white phosphorus.

Under international law, white phosphorus is not considered an incendiary weapon.


1. "Incendiary weapon" means any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons through the action of flame, heat, or combination thereof, produced by a chemical reaction of a substance delivered on the target. (a) Incendiary weapons can take the form of, for example, flame throwers, fougasses, shells, rockets, grenades, mines, bombs and other containers of incendiary substances. (b) Incendiary weapons do not include:

(i) Munitions which may have incidental incendiary effects, such as illuminants, tracers, smoke or signalling systems;
White phosphorus is used only for smoke and illumination, not as an incendiary weapon.

HRW acknowledges this and calls to change the definition in Protocol III, but its use of the term throughout the paper is misleading.

There is nothing wrong with HRW calling to increase restrictions on WP use, since it can be misused and cause burns and other injuries. 

However, this report gives the impression that Israel still uses white phosphorus, dedicating one of its three case studies to Israel's use of WP in Gaza in 2009, liberally quoting its own 2009 report. 

The other two case studies are Syria and Afghanistan. It doesn't mention that WP was also used by the US in Iraq, or by Turkey in Syria, or by both Armenia and Azerbaijan in their conflict.

It doesn't mention that Israel stopped using WP in 2013 and that it reprimanded officers for the misuse of the weapon in the 2009 war.

For a report of this size, these omissions seem to be purposeful. HRW wants to put Israel in the same human rights category as Afghanistan and Syria, and it wants its readers to think that Israel still uses WP unlawfully. Anything that would blunt inciting readers to hate Israel is omitted.

If this was the only time HRW did something like this, perhaps one could say this was an oversight. But it isn't. Even though Israel is not the target of this report, it ends up being a major villain, and it provides no context at all on Israel's former use of the still legal weapon.






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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون



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